Friday, June 16, 2017

Live Shows: Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, Hayden Planetarium, Museum of Science, Boston, MA 6/15/17

Photo by Dave Green
A Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys show is always an event. They're a band that truly puts on a performance, not just a concert. Seeing them live is as much a visual experience as it is an auditory one. Last night, the band took over the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science for a one night only event.

I had expected something more on the lines of the old style laser light shows last night. Back in my youth, the planetarium was always hosting Laser Floyd or Laser Zeppelin shows on weekends. (The only one I ever went to was Laser Nirvana back in 1996...) Instead Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys were accompanied by computer animation projected across the screen of the planetarium. It was a slightly odd experience. Usually when at a concert you watch the band and not a screen. The band members circled the projector in the center of the room and played, so any audience member could only see the band by leaning forward in the chair, and then they could only see about half of the performers. It was interesting experiencing such dynamic live performers with the attention drawn away from themselves.

The animation was perfectly suited to the music the vast majority of the time. Visuals such as floating through a castle, odd green creatures, and swirling psychedelic graphics worked the best. One odd choice was the use of animated snowflakes during "Old Skin," which I'm pretty sure isn't about snow. The best use of visuals along with music was during "Baba Yaga," which featured Walter Sickert's artwork, animated and moving about. As great as the experience was, I do wish more had been like this.

As for the actual musical performance, it truly was a unique Army of Toys show. The band was much more reserved, and traded in their more bombastic songs for more restrained ones. There were quite a number of choices that I didn't fully recognize, and I consider myself to be somewhat of an obsessive fan. Even the louder songs were played a bit more calmly, most likely in reverence for the setting. The songs can really be allowed to stand for themselves in this setting, unlike a rock club where the band has to be loud and attention grabbing. The entire audience's attention was already held by the visual experience. One unique highlight was a medley that contained Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" and Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades."

The Museum of Science is putting on two more concerts this summer, with Niki Luparelli & The Gold Diggers July 20 and Hallelujah the Hills August 17. For more information, check out their website.

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